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Numbers show encouraging signs in Mass., but new model calls for 2,000 more deaths by early June

A coronavirus test.
A coronavirus test.Bloomberg/Photographer: Bloomberg/Bloomber

The state reported Tuesday that the death toll from the coronavirus in Massachusetts had risen by 33 cases to 5,141, as the numbers continued to show encouraging signs of a letup in the pandemic.

But University of Massachusetts researchers underlined that the heartbreak is not over yet, releasing a new model predicting 7,700 would be killed by the virus in the state by June 6.

The daily death tally from the state came with caveats. Officials noted that due to a later reporting deadline on Monday, some deaths that might have been included in Tuesday’s report were instead in Monday’s report, which counted 129 deaths.

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Still, the two-day average of deaths was 81. And the seven-day average of daily deaths announced by the state dropped to 132, the lowest it has been since April 18.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases climbed by 870 to 79,332. The Department of Public Health also reported 6,768 new tests had been conducted, marking a total of 401,496 in the state.

The state’s daily percentage of positive tests rose slightly to 13 percent, but continued to show a general decline from mid-April highs of 33 and 34 percent. The seven-day average of positive test rates, a number closely watched by public health experts, stayed stable at 14 percent, but overall continued a downward trend from April highs.

The number of coronavirus hospitalizations in the state ticked up from 3,102 to 3,127, but that was down from a peak of 3,965 on April 21.

Earlier Tuesday, UMass researchers also predicted that there would be 112,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States by June 6. The numbers come from a lab headed by UMass Amherst associate professor Nicholas Reich that collects various coronavirus pandemic models and develops a combined, or ensemble, forecast that is intended to reflect their collective wisdom.

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Reich’s lab only creates the ensemble forecast for a four-week window ahead, believing forecasts aren’t reliable enough after that. Other models that go farther into the future predict tens of thousands more deaths nationally.

The four-week UMass forecast says there is a 10 percent chance the US death number will be below 104,167 and a 10 percent chance it will be above 123,272.

The last ensemble forecast, issued a week ago, predicted that 103,000 Americans will have died from the coronavirus by the end of May, including 7,433 in Massachusetts.

“The ensemble model is now 85-90% certain that we will reach 100,000 deaths in the U.S. by May 30. This represents a slight increase and tightening in certainty compared with what the forecast said last week," Reich said in a statement.

Reich’s team is now collecting 36 models from 20 teams of “highly respected infectious-disease forecasters from prominent institutions,” UMass Amherst said in a statement.

The closely watched University of Washington model is predicting 116,000 deaths by June 7, rising to 137,184 deaths by Aug. 4. Experts have warned of a possible resurgence of the pandemic in coming months.

Reich’s lab posts its data at the Reich Lab COVID-19 Forecast Hub. The lab, already an Influenza Forecasting Center of Excellence, collaborates with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on coronavirus predictions.

The lab also feeds the data it’s collected and its ensemble forecast to the agency, which posts the data on its own website. The data is also used to feed the fivethirtyeight.com website. Reich’s lab posts its data at the Reich Lab COVID-19 Forecast Hub.

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Martin finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JaclynReiss